A Place For Cars and For Swimming

Date: 29 November 2023   Author: Energise Me

When Zoe Newton first joined Shirley Warren Primary School as Headteacher, she knew she wanted a pop-up pool for pupils. But after months of communications with companies and other schools, it was never quite doable. Until this year…

As part of the national curriculum, all pupils before they leave year 6 must:

  • Perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.
  • Swim competently, confidently, and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres.
  • Use a range of strokes effectively, for example: front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke.

However, children didn’t enjoy standing in the cold waiting for transport that didn’t arrive (which happened more than once!).  I also noticed that pupils had very limited time in the pool after travel and changing times. Group sizes were often too large and the children lost the continuity by only going once ever week. They were also missing a whole afternoon of school for such a short session.

I knew I had to do something to make this a better experience for my students. It was time to think creatively. After all, if you don’t do anything differently, you can’t expect things to change.

The Pop-Up Pool

After emailing organisations and other schools for guidance and advice, I eventually found my way to ActiveMe360. They offered the entire package: the pool and marquee, the swim teacher, insurance, the floats and toys. The pool would also be heated and chemically maintained by them too. It was a brilliant package. Of course, finance was a big obstacle but having the knowledge I do now, it is entirely worth it!

There’s a corner in the car park next to a building that’s rarely used which made for the perfect spot. We had to add electric hookup lights to the outside, but a grant reimbursed the cost of this. The pool was built under a fixed marquee with lockable doors within a matter of a few days. We ran into a few water issues at the start but ActiveMe360 found a freshwater company who came and filled it up. We then turned one of the not-used classrooms into a changing room. Piece by piece, it all slowly came together.

Having a pool set-up on a school site provides a much more personal approach to swimming lessons and from my experience has meant that a lot more children were able to feel comfortable in a familiar surrounding.

Hannah, ActiveMe360

How It Worked

All of our year 5 and 6 students had swimming lessons. As well as being in the water. Their learnings also covered water theory like what certain beach flags mean and developed their water confidence and how to stay safe in the water.

Pupils were divided into groups of 10. They were separated by ability via an initial assessment so that children who were more confident could also be challenged. It’s a great way for pupils to be active throughout the entire 45 minutes as it’s a manageable amount of people. This set up really allowed the children to develop their skills.

As I mentioned, ActiveMe360 provided the swim teachers, Hannah, Nellie and Ellie were an incredible addition to the experience. At a swimming centre, you often get a different coach each time you visit but having the same swimming team meant that children could build that relationship and trust. We had the pool for a total of six weeks and loved every minute of it.

A Learning Curve

In the beginning, we were worried that our pupils may forget their swimming kit (or lose them!) so we decided that the children should keep their towels and costumes at school. The staff had agreed we would use the school tumble dryers to dry items, however, it got to the point when every chair and surface in the staff room was covered by clothes! We needed a different strategy. So, we bought some drying racks and that has made the process much better.

My highlight at Shirley Warren was watching children who wouldn’t even enter the water at the beginning of their lessons build up the courage to get into the pool and actually begin to swim. It was inspirational. I’m truly proud to have been a part of their journey.

Hannah, ActiveMe360

The Impact

We’ve seen water confidence in our pupil’s skyrocket! I think fear would normally build up in a less confident child over the week where they didn’t swim, but this has reduced because they’re swimming every day. It’s become normal. We’ve received such positive feedback from the parents too.

There’s a much bigger percentage of children reaching their swimming goals now as well. And I’ve had younger pupils come up to me asking when it’s their turn to use the pool. Although they have a few years yet, it’s brilliant that an interest is already being instilled in them.

I knew that we had something amazing in our pockets and I wanted to open it up to the wider community. I approached the nursery next door and asked if they had any parents and toddlers who would like to use the pool, which they did.

I’ve been contacted by local schools who want to follow in our footsteps, and I am happy to guide and advise because we’ve had such a positive experience. We’ve booked the pool for the next two years! My hope next time around is that we can invite parents of our pupils to swim. A lot of parents don’t have water confidence so don’t take their children swimming. If we can help that then maybe families can get swimming together outside of school.

Get in touch

Hampshire Outdoors are really keen to support schools with this opportunity, if you are a Hampshire based school and interested in exploring the option of a portable pool, please get in touch: PEandSport@hants.gov.uk

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